Behind the Bracket: Big Ten bolstered by high-profile returnees

There's an argument to be made that the Big Ten got a bad rap last season. After all, Michigan played in the national championship game and Penn State won the NIT. Purdue (No. 5) and Michigan State (No. 6) joined the Wolverines in KenPom's season-ending top 10.

But the Big Ten underachieved in 2017-18, at least by its own standards. Its four NCAA bids were the league's lowest total in a decade. Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Maryland were all considered among the nation's significant underachievers. And who can forget Nebraska posting a ridiculously good conference record (13-5) and receiving no better than a No. 5 seed -- in the NIT?

Indeed, the 2017-18 season was anything but a high-water mark for the Big Ten. All of which brings us to our Bracketology update for the 2018-19 season. Thanks to a finalized list of NBA draft entries and withdrawals, we can look ahead to the new season with an increased level of confidence.

And what do you know? The Big Ten is back.

No major conference came through the draft testing process in better shape. For every Kevin Huerter (Maryland) and Tony Carr (Penn State), there are plenty of high-level returnees. Purdue (Nojel Eastern and Carsen Edwards) and Nebraska (Isaac Copeland Jr. and James Palmer Jr.) were doubly fortunate, and Michigan State (Nick Ward), Michigan (Charles Matthews), Wisconsin (Ethan Happ) and Indiana (Juwan Morgan) received similarly good news.

Speaking of the Hoosiers, there is also the not-so-small matter of 6-foot-6 incoming freshman Romeo Langford. The country's top uncommitted recruit heading into the offseason, Langford's presence in crimson and cream accelerates Archie Miller's rebuilding project and should be enough for Indiana to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

All told, there are eight Big Ten teams in our latest field of 68. And team No. 69, Penn State, remains a legitimate NCAA hopeful even without Carr.

With that, here are some other headlines from a bracket that should hold up well until late summer:

IN (3): Indiana is joined as a new entry in the field by fellow Big Ten member Wisconsin -- thank you, Mr. Happ -- and rebuilt-on-the-fly Arizona. It's a good day for the Miller coaching brothers.

OUT (3): The at-large teams losing their spot, at least for the time being, are Penn State, Boston College and Texas A&M. BC's loss of standout guard Jerome Robinson may be the most impactful departure in the country.

Villanova: The Wildcats drop from No. 4 overall and a No. 1 seed to No. 9 overall (and a wishful No. 3). The defending national champions may still win the Big East, but the Cats' epic run -- Jay Wright's team hasn't lost back-to-back games in five years -- is at an end.

North Carolina: Taking Villanova's spot on the top line are the Tar Heels. With Luke Maye back in the fold, UNC joins ACC rivals Duke and Virginia as arguably three of the nation's top five teams.

RISING: Tennessee moves up to a No. 2 seed and is now no worse than a co-favorite (along with Kentucky) in the SEC. Others with improved seeds include Virginia Tech, TCU, Florida State, Clemson and Houston.

FALLING: Without Jacob Evans, defending AAC champion Cincinnati tumbles from a No. 6 seed to No. 8. Others trending downward include Michigan, UCLA, Ohio State and Oregon. In most of these cases, downward movement was caused by additions elsewhere more than anything negative from the team in question.

Finally, certain fans will no doubt be disappointed by a lack of significant movement for their favorite teams. Just remember that our prior evaluations didn't assume departures for every declared college player, only those who were consensus first-round selections.

Specifically, the following teams were never downgraded for a possible loss of star players: Tennessee (Admiral Schofield), Nevada (Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline), Auburn (Bryce Brown), Syracuse (Tyus Battle), Kansas State (Barry Brown), UCLA (Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes), Clemson (Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell), Florida (Jalen Hudson) and LSU (Tremont Waters).